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Recording in "free" tempo - no click track


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Are there engineers who do this? I don't know of any who ever force anyone to play to a click.

 

I've worked with several bands who had previous experiences of engineers who told them they HAD to play to a click.

 

I also have walked into some major studios where as soon as the drum tracks are cut, the second engineer presumes he's supposed to line everything up to a grid. He doesn't even wait to be told. I have had to yell at a second a couple of times to get him to undo the damage. :rolleyes:

 

A lot of places have developed these "default" methods of working based on the way the big-time mix engineers currently work. It's assumed the mix engineer is going to be the one to actually build the arrangement, not the musicians, so they deliver everything cut to a click and lined up to a grid to make it easy for the mix engineer to cut and paste. The tracking engineers don't want to get fired for delivering tracks that are difficult to "control."

 

Not my idea of music.

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Next time someone asks me if they can play / track without a click, I'm going to say "I won't force you to play with a click if you won't force me to edit your stuff like mad - deal?"


That way, everyone's happy.
:D

 

Yep. No click means no click - it doesn't mean hours of self torture for the engineer trying to get the band to sound remotely in time. :lol:

 

That said, as you pointed out earlier, I don't mind a bit of variation in tempo if the feel is there. It depends on the music, of course, but I think in general people have gotten waaay too slavish to the goal of "perfect time" and the same goes for pitch. Those subtle variations are what make us human and expressive.

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+1


And I would say "every time" instead of "sometimes."

 

 

The "sometimes" was in response to Lee K's comment that some bands are surprised that they sound better when they play to a click.

 

 

Conversely, if a band grooves well together without a click, it doesn't necessarily follow they'll do so with a click.

 

 

Definitely.

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I hate the click and the grid. In my opinion, that's what killed rock and roll. Pro Tools and digital editing took the life right out of rock and roll.

 

I don't see any real difference between tracking to the grid and using a drum machine and/or loops.

 

I've been playing guitar and drums for years and routinely practice with a click/metronome/loops and pride myself on having really good timing and tempo control.

 

But, I don't think rock and roll and any music that should swing should be strapped into that grid. It sucks the life out of music that rocks and rolls and most importantly, swings.

 

Yeah, you can get some swing in between bars, but not as much as you can when you're not strapped into the grid.

 

As for the click slowing down, I agree that YES, it was slowing down. Almost every good classic rock song has good dynamics. And a lot of classic songs are obviously more up tempo than when they started. This is part of the dynamics of music.

 

In my mind, dynamics isn't just the variation in intensity, it also includes tempo fluctuation.

 

Are people playing music, or are the machines playing people?

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Next time someone asks me if they can play / track without a click, I'm going to say "I won't force you to play with a click if you won't force me to edit your stuff like mad - deal?"


That way, everyone's happy.
:D

 

:D

 

Usually I don't get that. It's because the bands that record at my place usually can't afford to have me sit for hours editing their stuff.

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I know what you're saying Stranger. As time marches on, and more and more pop music gets locked to the grid, the more and more I like to hear the old stuff.

Zep
Turtles
Mancini
Love
Doors
Deep Purple
Stones

All done without a click and I love it. Picture Lovin' Spoonful's Daydream locked to the grid. That nice gallop in the guitar and drums would be gone. Or The Letter by The Box Tops. It would suck to hear that sapped of all its vitality.

I know some drummers that come from that school and it is a pleasure to play with them. To relax with the groove and let it slide. It feels great. Speed up, slow down, it's all in our control.

But I find myself in the precarious position of slamming my clients. They're now friends of mine. But frankly, most of them do not possess the skill to gallop, speed up or slow down intentionally or with unintentional enthusiasm in any way resembling music. They don't.

The concept for today's musician is very different than when I was coming up. Groove was a sought after trait of the guys you hooked up with. Less so today.

So I stand by my choice. When confronted with a group where their ideas and concepts far out class their ability to execute them, I'll take the low road...

...and fake that bastard.

If I could actually get a player to take my advice and woodshed with a metronome, we might be able to score some groove running in free time. But that isn't happening.

I love music without a click. I practice with one so I don't have to play with one. I'm forced to choose between faking the groove and recording crap. I know some disagree with my choice. I certainly understand it.

BTW, I'm no dictator. These are decisions made by all involved after them understanding the relative merits of both approaches. Unfortunately most opt for the low road because as mentioned in an earlier post, it's sort of the "way-it's-done".

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I've worked with several bands who had previous experiences of engineers who told them they HAD to play to a click.

 

Wow, bizarre. Do they also force guitarists to use a specific kind of amp or guitar? If I were the band, I'd just say, "Sorry, you're clearly the wrong guy for us, later."

 

I also have walked into some major studios where as soon as the drum tracks are cut, the second engineer
presumes
he's supposed to line everything up to a grid. He doesn't even wait to be told. I have had to yell at a second a couple of times to get him to undo the damage.
:rolleyes:

 

'Course, I guess most bands do it this way now.

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A lot of places have developed these "default" methods of working based on the way the big-time mix engineers currently work. It's assumed the mix engineer is going to be the one to actually build the arrangement, not the musicians, so they deliver everything cut to a click and lined up to a grid to make it easy for the mix engineer to cut and paste. The tracking engineers don't want to get fired for delivering tracks that are difficult to "control."

 

It's an odd form of reverse laziness.

 

There are still people out there who want to stack tracks themselves or cut drums later, but don't have the proper sense of time to do so. Then suggesting a click becomes me not wanting them to waste a lot of time.

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Don't get me wrong, I cook up raps and sampled beat excursions on a regular basis and enjoy a lot of grid based music, but some stuff isn't going to breath in that grid.


I guess it's a sad state of affairs, like mentioned earlier.
;)


I mention Scarlet's Walk a lot. It was cut to a click and I could sync it in any DAW..

Then again, Matt Chamberlain was there.

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Wow, bizarre. Do they also force guitarists to use a specific kind of amp or guitar?

 

Sometimes (usually, it's a producer who does that). But not usually. It's usually drummers who get the raw end of the deal. They have to cut tracks to a click, and the engineer puts duct tape all over their drums, tries to get them as dead as possible so they can totally control the sound with triggered samples and that kind of crap.

 

But actually, guitarists do get screwed too. Engineers often run a DI signal and record that at the same time as the amp, so that the guitar can be re-amped later using a modeller, if the mix engineer doesn't like the amp. And of course, they do this without the guitarist knowing until they hear the finished product. Never mind that if the guitarist had been playing through a different amp they probably would've played the part differently, because different amps respond differently to the same fingering. What matters is the mix engineer's ability to be a complete control freak. :D

 

If I were the band, I'd just say, "Sorry, you're clearly the wrong guy for us, later."

 

A lot of these bands don't really know any better. Particularly if they're inexperienced, they just think "that's the way things are done" and are really surprised when I don't make any mention of using a click. Then they get mad that they let the other guy make them do it.

 

Young bands going into a professional studio are often pretty intimidated and figure they'd better do what the engineer says and there's a good reason for it. Which sometimes, there is, but I don't ask a band to do anything different from what they're comfortable with, without explaining the reasons why I'm asking them to do it and giving them the option to do it or not.

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Are there engineers who do this? I don't know of any who ever force anyone to play to a click.

 

 

I've run into it. I did recorded a cd for an acoustic guy who couldn't play with a click to save his soul. He was at a studio and they had him stressing out playing for hours trying to do what he wasn't capable of doing without a lot of practice and time.

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I must be missing something. I guess I just don't get, the whole its easier to cut and paste audio when its recorded to a click or gridded out, concept.

 

I mean, whether I have a click or not, I edit with the exact same process. Just because you have a grid and click track doesn't mean you can just paint by numbers. You still have to zoom in and look at the wave forms, snip at a zero crossing, move the beat or note to line up to a peak you want it lined up to.

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I must be missing something. I guess I just don't get, the whole its easier to cut and paste audio when its recorded to a click or gridded out, concept. .... Just because you have a grid and click track doesn't mean you can just paint by numbers. You still have to zoom in and look at the wave forms, snip at a zero crossing, move the beat or note to line up to a peak you want it lined up to.

 

A lot of mix engineers don't want to have to edit by the beat or note. They want to be able to take, say, the rhythm guitar from the second chorus and paste the whole thing into the first chorus, without having to move any individual notes or stretch it out because the tempo doesn't quite match. That would be too much work. :rolleyes:

 

Let alone the fact that I hate productions that are obviously cut'n'pasted that way to begin with. God forbid the musicians actually play and sing the parts according to the final arrangement, so they can perform with some dynamics and build in intensity as the song goes on... etc.

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Weird. I just don't get out enough. Here, I simply advise someone or make suggestions. It's usually really minimal things like, "Hey, I have an amp that might sound good on this, give it a try and see if you like it" or "Let's check that tuning on the bass again" or whatever. That's it. I'm interested in making someone sound as much like him or her as I can, certainly not the opposite.

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Weird. I just don't get out enough.

 

 

At one point, I became interested in an online service (that shall remain unnamed) that seemed great on the surface; it allowed people to connect with various well-known studio musicians and mixers/producers. I was actually pretty excited about working within this framework until I found out that they would NOT accept any piece of music that wasn't done to a click, and the click file had to be included in the Pro Tools session.

 

The implications were obvious to me. I understood the reasoning behind it (making life easier for the parties involved), but it was such a wrong fit for my music that I abandoned the entire plan of working with that service specifically as a result of being forced to use the click.

 

Look, Phil is my engineer, mixer and co-producer. He's also a good friend. I don't intend to create extra work for him... but since when were musicians and songwriters in the business of making life easier for engineers? I make what I consider art, and the more laws, rules, and walls you put up around me, the more my art is compromised. Screw that.

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Yeah... and this is why, despite having many talented session players, producers and engineers working on today's major label releases, they all tend to sound like warmed over poo. The musicians have no idea when they perform the song how the arrangement will end up... they cut everything to a click... the second lines up everything to the grid... they throw every instrument plus the kitchen sink onto the tune and the mix engineer decides what to keep and what to take out. In fact the mix engineer and/or producer decide the entire dynamic and structure of the song, AFTER the musicians have already played it.

 

By the time they do all that and Autotune and compress the crap out of everything, there's not much of the original performance left. :( And most of the people who get these gigs don't complain, they just play what they're told, take their paycheck and go home.

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Lee, if you want to hear a REALLY compressed track, try to find a copy of Living Things by Matthew Sweet and check out "You're Not Sorry"; the vocals and piano in particular are compressed to the moon and back. It actually sounds pretty cool though.

 

At one point, I became interested in an online service (that shall remain unnamed) that seemed great on the surface; it allowed people to connect with various well-known studio musicians and mixers/producers. I was actually pretty excited about working within this framework until I found out that they would NOT accept any piece of music that wasn't done to a click, and the click file had to be included in the Pro Tools session.

 

Wow - I did not know that!

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A lot of mix engineers don't want to have to edit by the beat or note. They want to be able to take, say, the rhythm guitar from the second chorus and paste the whole thing into the first chorus, without having to move any individual notes or stretch it out because the tempo doesn't quite match. That would be too much work.
:rolleyes:


See this was par for the course in remixing. If they don't want to get down and dirty when the song requires it, I'm not sure I want them as a mix engineer.

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See this was par for the course in remixing. If they don't want to get down and dirty when the song requires it, I'm not sure I want them as a mix engineer.



IMO, the question is - what are you hiring them for?

If you're hiring them to mix, then you should send them properly edited tracks (or tracks that you're satisfied with in terms of timing / performance), and just let them mix, and specify that you JUST want them to mix. If you're asking them to fix and mix, that's a different matter entirely.

It's all about communication. And finding the person who is able and willing to get on the same page as you. :)

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